The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.

VI. Lesser Poets of the Middle and Later Nineteenth Century

§ 23. Translations

Yet another class may be made, though space forbids lenghthy discussion of its members, of the numerous, and sometimes very interesting, translators of classical and other languages who flourished during our period. It is possible that none of them achieved anything that was such a classic in itself as Cary’s Dante; and certainly none approached the unique opportunity and poetic merit of FitzGerald’s Omar Khayyam. But the Aristophanic versions of Thomas Mitchell and John Hookham Fere, who belonged partly to the earlier nineteenth century, were of singular vividness and vigour; and they were followed by the Vergilian rendering of the two Kennedys, Rann and Charles Rann (father and son), and of John Connington; by the Catullian of Robinson Ellis; by the numerous attempts from the versions of Lord Derby and F.W. Newmann onwards, in all sorts of meters and of all manner of styles, to storm the impregnable fort of Homeric quality (the best poetry, if the farthest in reproduction of character, being, perhaps, the Spenserian Odyysey of Philip Stanhope Worsley); and these are only a few speciments of the great library of verse translation produced during the time, whether among those noticed in this chapter or among the “majors” dealt with elsewhere, abstained wholly from translation. Whatever opinions may be held in petto about the necessary limitations, or the equally necessary licences, of such translation in itself, it may fairly claim, in the nineteenth century, to have escaped one almost fatal danger which had pursued it in the eighteenth. The immense variety of poetic meters and styles which was now common and almost obligatory gave no excuse for, and indeed, definitely prohibited, the reduction (in a special sense) to a common measure not particularly suitable to Latin, hopelessly unsuited to Greek and of doubtful application to modern foreign languages, which had prevailed earlier. Among the innumerable compilations and anthologies of recent years one does not remember any wholly composed of nineteenth-century translations in verse from different modern languages. It might not be ill worth doing.

It was observed of the poetesses noticed in the last chapter of this kindthat they increased largely in numbers during the early part of the nineteenth century. Ten years before the death of Mrs. Hemans, Dyce had been able to fill a respectable volume with applicants of older date for the position of “Tenth Muse,” but the remaining three-quarters of the century were more prolific of these than the whole earlier range of English literature. The popularity of Mrs. Hemans herself and of Miss Landon were far exceeded by that Mrs. Browning; and, just as Mrs. Browning died, Miss Rossetti began. The works of these two, as well as those of Emily Brontë George Eliot and one or two others, fall, for various reasons, out of our flock, but a very considerable number remain—in only one case, perhaps, to be noticed last of all, exhibiting a quality which marks the ticket “lesser” as rather ungracious, but in all entitled to challenge a place here with the masculine minorities.